Thursday, 20 July 2017

Balsamic Onion Soda Bread aka your next cheese platter staple.

I've been really enjoying making bread lately and I've been trying my hand at sourdough which you might have seen over on instagram. My sourdough baking is VERY hit and miss but I might be my harshest critic as Tris is very complimentary of my bread and often tells me to shut-up when I start criticising my latest loaf. Which I'm sorry to say, this post is not about sourdough as I am in no way ready to share a sourdough recipe (yet) as I don't think I've found one that gives me consistent results or (which is most likely the answer) I'm not ready to even start to tell you what to do. I am newbie at it so feels a little cocky to start preaching to you what to do. But what I have made lately is a different kind of bread which I am comfortable to tell you about. Soda Bread. Balsamic Onion Soda Bread to be precise.

Balsamic Onion Soda Bread | Gathering Flora Shedden | salt sugar and i

Balsamic Onion Soda Bread | Gathering Flora Shedden | salt sugar and i

Soda Bread is kind of like a fancy Australian Damper cross with an Australian/UK Scone. I keep writing 'Australian' because a scone here (and in the UK) is not the same thing as what a scone is in the US. This kind of quick rise bread isn't the same as a kneaded yeast risen loaf, it gets it's lift from the acid in the buttermilk or yoghurt reacting with bicarb soda creating air and small bubbles - hence the name, Soda Bread. This fancied up Soda Bread has balsamic caramelised onions strewn throughout and like a match made in heaven, pairs perfectly with some strong vintage cheddar or a sharp blue as it has a sweetness to it that complements savoury things... like a good in-built quince or fig paste. Mmmm my mouth is watering as I write this.

Balsamic Onion Soda Bread | Gathering Flora Shedden | salt sugar and i

My photography doesn't look much cop and  agree with you if you're thinking right now 'why on earth is she going on about this rock-like-thing-on-a-baking-tray?!?' but trust me. This will be one of the easiest breads you'll probably ever make and be one of the most perfect additions to your next cheese platter cut into wedges, just waiting to be topped with a hefty chunk of cheese or a olive oil soaked sun-dried tomato.

If you're not a fan of the idea of sweet onions in your bread you could swap them for chopped marinated olives or diced semi-sundried tomatoes or even some garlic and herbs? It's a very versatile bread so really this recipe is your soda-oyster... er.. doesn't quite work hey?... ah well you get what I mean. I'll be making the a garlic & herb version this weekend to go with Sundays bolognese cook up and who's maybe I'll mast that pesky sourdough this weekend too.

Balsamic Onion Soda Bread

recipe slightly adapted from Gatherings by Flora Shedden

2 large white onions or 3 banana shallots, finely sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
20g raw caster sugar
450g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250ml milk
100g greek yogurt

Start by preheating your oven to 180C/350F and line a tray with baking paper.

Place the sliced onions into a deep saucepan, add the vinegar and raw caster sugar and over low to medium heat, cook for about 15 minutes. You want the onions to soften first and then almost caramelise so cook until all the liquid in the pan is gone.

Once the onions are caramelised, allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the self-raising flour, bicarb, milk and yogurt into a large bowl.

Gently stir the bread mixture together until just combined, then stir through the (slightly cooled) onions. Try not overmix this – you just need to make sure the onions are evenly dispersed throughout and there are not chunks of flour/wet spots.

Next, dust your prepared tray with flour, then tip the dough on out ontop. To shape your bread, dust your hands with more flour to avoid sticking and gently shape into a round loaf-like shape. To help the bread open out, using a very sharp knife, score the round into quarters.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes (depending on your oven). Your bread should be golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the underside.

Allow to cool completely for neat slices or as Flora Sheddan says: if you are feeling greedy, tuck in straight away, slathering the bread with good salted butter.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

An unnamed somebody told me the other day I don't use my kitchen-aid much... well humpf... I made these cookies and you (the accuser) ate them. Ha. Chew on them Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies why don't you!? - I say this in jest and lots of love :)

To be honest with you readers, I've missed baking. To say it hasn't been on the top of my list this year is an understatement and among other things I've been 'attempting' to plan a wedding (Oh gawd! less than 2 months!!). Planning is very hard when you're a non-planner. I am a non-planner.

But cookies.. I can make cookies.

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies recipe | salt sugar and i

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies to be exact. I baked and it was fun. I have been craving a chunky, chewy, full, oaty cookie thats got substance to it for some weeks now. Actually since I saw Amelia and Teddy make oatmeal cookies on youtube. My only issue with most oatmeal cookie recipes is that I'm not a huge fan of (soggy) dried fruit and lets face it, most recipes are packed full with the stuff. Maybe I'm just fussy. I like dried fruit in hot cross buns (toasted and drowned in butter), in christmas pudding (must be swimming in ice-cream/custard) and I like dried cranberries, currants and cherries but any other dried fruit thats not in the above items, no thanks. You can keep them.  I like the really dried, chewy stuff, none of this soggy, squishy variety. Yeh yeh, I could substitute the dried fruit I don't like with the stuff I do like - simple. Only thing was on the Sunday when I had a spare 2 hours to bake something (anything!), I only had all the dried fruit I didn't like left over from Christmas (yes - I do realise it's over 6 months later) and all the recipes I could find in my cookbooks at home either required dried fruit or weren't chunky enough/looked liked the cookie monster had sat on them they were so flat. I felt a little like Goldilocks...

Tartine - too flat.

Bourke Street Bakery - too barberry-like.

Alice Merich - in the chewy section.

Anna Jones - Coconut oil... in a cookie... you crazy cat you.

The Wednesday Chef - mmm just right.

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies recipe | salt sugar and i

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies recipe | salt sugar and i

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies recipe | salt sugar and i
The recipe that stole my stomach and ticked every box for the cookie I wanted. Chunky Chocolatey Oaty. Perfect. Bonus! There was a photo that reassured me they'd be somewhat chunky and not like anyone has sat on them AND they didn't include any nasty bits of dried fruit. A match made in cookie-heaven.

They were full of good quality chunks of dark chocolate, desiccated coconut, brown sugar, raw sugar, butter, oats and to be slightly 'healthier' (ha! who am I kidding?!) I swapped the plain flour for wholemeal flour. I also reduced the sugar slightly from the original recipe in Gourmet but not as much as Luisa did when she made them as I was worried my swap of wholemeal flour would be too earthy. Anyway - they turned out pretty damn good using the measurements in the recipe below.

I brought them along for dessert ft a pizza and wine night and while they didn't go quite well with rosé, I was told they went great with a glass of red.

Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

recipe adapted from The Wednesday Chef (originally from Gourmet)
Makes lots of cookies

225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons raw/white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup wholemeal all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
2 cups good quality dark chocolate (340g), roughly chopped
3/4 cup almonds with skins (110g), toasted, cooled, and chopped

Preheat your oven to 375F/190C (lower if fan forced) and line 2 trays with baking paper.

Start by beating together butter and both sugars in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until just blended, then add in the vanilla, baking soda, and salt.

Next, add wholemeal flour and mix on low speed until just blended. Either on a low speed or by hand, stir in the rolled oats, desiccated coconut, chocolate chunks, and chopped almonds.

To start shaping the cookies, you'll use a 1/4-cup measuring cup and place mounds of cookie dough about 3 inches apart on the baking trays. Bake until golden, rotating halfway through, 15 minutes total.

Cool the cookies on the trays for about 1 minute, then transfer with a spatula to racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough until all cookies are baked.